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Cincinnati Observations: Two Tales of a City

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Who knew that two years ago as I was prepared to share with you my observations as someone who moved to Cincinnati from Seattle that it would be two years more before I would actually have time to do so? Two years? Hard to believe. As I intimated in the post just before this one, two major factors have kept me from writing: Raising a new puppy, and losing a lot of photos. Rest assured, my PedalPinting has continued all along. I have expanded my prowess in navigating this city, and new breweries have opened up. I am eager to share with you this new knowledge, and all the fun!

As for sharing my observations of Cincinnati as an outsider? Now I think I have time and am ready. As I told you in the past, I have been paying attention.

MetalSidewalkHoleWGrassSprout

Those of you who have followed me, be you PedalPinters or not, and those who have simply read the subtitle of this blog know that we moved to Cincy from Seattle. What you may not know is I have moved around this country quite a bit. I wouldn’t change that. It’s been an experience-rich life so far.

I find myself holding two views of Cincinnati:

1. Things suck here, and that’s just the way it is.

2. It’s not that bad.

Following is a writeup of the culture around the city, after which will appear a simple list of points – observations and their implications. These points will, as much as possible, include a photo I have taken serving as an example. I will begin this study of Cincinnati tonight, laying out my view, and I will add entries to the list of examples/points and photos in the coming days. Check back often for updates.

Here is a feel for why Cincinnati sucks and that’s just the way it is:

An old-fashioned city.

It has become clear to me that this is an old-fashioned city. I am not saying old-fashioned is always bad. I have many old-fashioned views and qualities, and I am certainly not someone who is quick to jump to accepting all things new and popular. What I see though is that people here seem behind the times in some ways, and I suspect they like it that way.

The most glaring example for me, and the one that most relates to what we do here at Twopedalsacouplepints is the prevailing attitude toward cycling on the roadways. Never before, anywhere I have lived, have I had it shouted at me: “Get on the sidewalk!!” – not “get off the road.” It is clear that a great number of people here believe that people riding bicycles should only do so on the sidewalk! I am reminded of the infamous picture of Mayor Cranley sporting a bike from the newly-rolled out Red Bike program by riding it. Where? On the sidewalk!!

Further examples can be found in the population’s participation rate in recycling, and the attitude toward the concept of recycling. It’s a glaring difference from what you see in Seattle. To start, you see written on the recycling bins and/or trucks the slogan “Cincinnati Recycles.” Okay. Whoop dee doo! Don’t make like it’s some extraordinary thing to recycle. Recycling in Seattle is much more an integrated foregone conclusion about which the City does not attempt to brag. What I see as I walk and run my athletic dog, and as I bicycle around Cincinnati is that trash cans are amazingly heavy (I know this because I very often have to move them out of the way as they are placed blocking the sidewalk) and the recycling bins are light. Some of the big, nice houses around Hyde Park have two or three trash bins, and just one recycling bin. Our household produces probably at least three times as much recycling as landfill waste. We traded in our full-sized trash bin for the small size and we rarely fill it up halfway. I also see a ton of recyclable material in landfill-bound trash bins, and I see recyclables like big cardboard boxes set out on non-recycling days.

Now, look at diet and eating habits and customs in Cincinnati. Obviously you have the whole chili thing. You also have it just assumed (and this is certainly not unique to Cincy) that everyone eats meat. Barbeque this, hamburger and hot dog that. Trying to raise a child who does not eat meat and does not consume a bunch of junk is a challenge here. Heck, the public school hands out candy for good behavior! Pathetic.

Consider also just how car-centric Cincinnati is. It may sound dramatic, but I really feel quite alone when I bicycle anywhere in this town. I am an alien in a hostile land. I very much long for the feeling, not just of collegiality, but of relative safety that I got cycling in some parts of Seattle. There were a lot of other cyclists on the streets with me, which leads to them being expected and accepted. Cycling in Cincy, you just feel that you are going out there and running against the grain – angering people and taking such a risk.  Cincinnati is most certainly not alone in this, but it is just automatic in people’s minds that if you need to leave your house you get in the car or truck.

A surprisingly segregated city, both in terms of income/social standing and of race.

I also find Cincinnati to be very much a place of the haves and the have-nots. Wealth and status are worn on the sleeve. The kind of car you drive appears to be very crucial (and predictable). Let’s just say the Kias and the Hyundais are reserved for the young, the (non-wealthy) college students and those who don’t earn much money. If you have a respectable career or social standing you are not seen in one of these vehicles.

This, I believe, is tied into the very evident attitude toward pedestrians. If you attempt to get around without the aid of a motor vehicle, you are disregarded, disrespected and endangered. You are seen as a second-class citizen at best. It is clear – and I certainly noticed this when I lived across the river in Northern KY as well –that people on foot had just better stay the heck out of the way of drivers or pay the price. Drivers will turn in front of you, cutting you off almost without fail – this whether or not you are in a crosswalk. Shocking and disturbing is the frequency of reports of pedestrians killed or injured by drivers in Cincinnati.

So, if you try to get somewhere without firing up a motor vehicle, you are in a sense viewed as a have-not – a loser or someone who must be down on their luck. After all, why doesn’t that loser walking along the street have a car? I submit to you that there is a racist component tied into this. I observe that a lot of the people walking places are black. Do I think that they are walking for exercise, or because they chose to leave the car at home? No, I suspect many of them cannot afford to drive. There you have the tie-in to the haves and the have nots. It does seem to me that to a large degree the black population of Cincinnati is struggling financially. So, as a white man, I am grouped by drivers into that same perceived class of people (not that most drivers do much actual thinking behind the wheel). I am walking or running to the grocery store so I am a loser who wishes he had a car. Now, consider the ridership of the “Metro” buses around town. Look at the race of the riders. I’ve observed that it is overwhelmingly black. Mass-transit options should be embraced by all, and used widely, not just those who aren’t able to afford to drive a personal car.

Some of you will misconstrue my words. To you, I say: Be honest – with yourself, then with others.

Here’s why Cincinnati is not that bad:

A city of “firsts,” “only-s” and “biggests.”

I often learn of facts regarding Cincinnati that reveal that this or that was the first of its kind in the nation. I learn of places, establishments, or things that are the biggest, or the only, in the country.

The Reds were the first professional baseball team (right? I don’t know for sure).

The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the country.

I learned from the owner of a local brewery that Cincinnati’s water treatment plant is something like the most respected in the nation. That really surprised me. I guess if you’re pulling drinking water from the Ohio River you had better be very good at cleaning it. Of course, the quality of the water that you have at your house depends heavily on the condition, and length, of the pipes between the plant and your house. So here we have a “best.”

I learned on one of the OTR guided tours (which we finally took when out-of-town guests came to visit) that much of – most of? – the iron work like balcony railings and the like in New Orleans was made in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati was one of the largest brewing cities in the nation before prohibition.

You get the idea. Some examples are slipping my mind at the moment. Feel free to share more examples in the comment section!

Good Parks

We do seem to have a good amount of parks, and they are pretty nice. I will mention the cool water fountains below in my list of observations. Even the ones that are in not-so-nice neighborhoods seem nice. This is, at least, my observation. I certainly have not been to all that many of our parks, nor have I visited the majority of the city’s neighborhoods, but it’s held true for me so far.

Surprising number of companies and businesses

You’ve got Kroger, P&G, Gorilla Glue and more very well-known companies here. We have the very respected Cincinnati Children’s. Beyond that, there seem to be a lot of businesses in Cincinnati. Seems a good thing in terms of jobs, though I haven’t really explored what it’s like to job-search here.

Pro football and pro baseball. Two nationally-known colleges

I am decidedly not a sports fan. I watch MMA as often as I can, as I have trained in it and I study self defense; but sports fan – yeah no. Still, it is pretty significant to me that we have the Bengals and the Reds – not just in our state, but right here in our very city. We also have Xavier and UC. That’s two (it seems to me) pretty major colleges right here. Now, it sucks, and baffles me, that both of them are surrounded by pretty sketchy areas of town; but at least they are here.

“The Banks”

I’m not up on the politics surrounding The Banks development in Downtown near the riverfront. I am quite sure there are many who are anti-The Banks and are resentful about it – just as you can easily find folks who are anti and resentful about every single issue and thing. All I know is that what I have seen and experienced of Downtown Cincinnati is cleaner and nicer than Downtown Seattle. There also (at least used to be) far, far fewer panhandlers here than Seattle. I have surmised that enforcement must be responsible for this. The situation has been changing, though, in recent times for some reason.

Hello! Brewery taprooms being legalized, and the appreciable springing up of new breweries.

This one pretty much speaks for itself. We moved to Cincinnati – about three years ago – at just the right time! I’m not saying we have an awesome number of breweries here, but it is reaching a level where I am starting to respect it.

Fairly consistent positive developments in the area of Multi-Use Trails and bicycle facilities.

Here again, I am not saying things are great, or even good; but it really has (I reluctantly admit) been surprising how consistently I hear of positive things happening in this regard. Let’s see: Off the top of my head: Delta Ave bike lanes which I use often. Madison Ave bike lanes which see me often. A connector trail between Lunken and Armleder. The new trail from Newtown to *almost* Lunken. (who knows when that bridge will get built) The very recent definitive good news regarding The Wasson Way trail! It is still a long way off from being all that useful but I relish the idea of rolling on the new pavement over in Evendale or wherever the first section will be constructed. The multi-use trail along Wilmer was recently redone – in concrete no less. It used to be a bicycle wheel-bender at each driveway you cross. Now it is nice, to my knowledge. There just seems to be a consistent, albeit low-power, move in the right direction in terms of livability for not just cyclists but for all.

The Little Miami River, and the three squares

I feel fortunate, and appreciate the area of town in which I live. We are sort of in the SE section of Hyde Park. It is easy to get on Linwood Ave. and get down to access to the River, where I know of two separate kayak (or canoe) put-ins. You can also have your dog swim there, and maybe go swimming yourself. It’s very cool to have a river so close!

Where I live, we can walk/run to all three squares: Hyde Park, Mt. Lookout, and Oakley. Some are farther than others, as you might imagine. The point is that it is nice to have, in a city where there are plenty of areas that are run down and not safe, these viable decent areas with community spaces – even small green spaces – and a few shops and restaurants that are useful to me/my family.

I am certainly forgetting some things, but I have laid out my two tales of this city. Now, on to the poignant, funny and/or frustrating observations! More soon! Check back, PedalPinters!

I’m Back!

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Well hello, PedalPinters!! What’s it been, two years? Sorry for such a long leave from my duties as your glorious leader; but, well, it started with the addition of that puppy I told you about. Keeping an eye on him, and keeping him from waking the house with barking was just a killer to sitting down and writing anything!

Life has returned sufficiently to normal now (yeah, challenging dog) and I’m so excited to share stuff with you!

I trust you have been PedalPinting along nicely. Have I? You bet your sweet bippy.

nishikiinsideurbanartifact-copy

One of my bikes at Urban Artifact. The place has since gotten more fully furnished so parking inside is not usually what I do these days. Awesome that I discovered their neat homemade bike rack out in the courtyard area!

 

Another obstacle to my joining you online has been that I lost many of the pictures I had taken for my piece regarding observations about Cincinnati from the viewpoint of an outsider. I recently found a decent amount of pics and look forward to putting together that work – not just as a one-year resident, but now as a three year resident! Lucky you!

Oh Hey. Been Busy Again But I’ve Got Good Stuff For You!

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You all may be wondering why no new posts lately.

Getting a new puppy who is pretty high maintenance is one reason.

Seems my time is so limited right now!

Rest assured my beer-by-bike adventures continue, and I really look forward to sharing some with you soon!

My observations after a year+ in Cincinnati are bursting from my mind and will find their way to yours before long!

An Adventure To Cellar Dweller Brewing

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Join me as I roll up to Morrow, OH to Cellar Dweller Brewing. This adventure was mostly on separated trail!

CellarDwellerLogo

I have known about Cellar Dweller pretty much from the beginning of my living here in Cincinnati. It was, however, one of the two local breweries that I considered unbikeable (the other being the very nice Mt. Carmel Brewing). Then came the day I went to the Lunken Beerfest a couple months ago or so. I stopped by the Cellar Dweller booth for some tastes. The conversation turned to the fact that I had biked to the Fest. The man told me that they sometimes have cyclists visiting the brewery (well, I think he might have said “all the time” but I think that has to be an exaggeration). He said they’re located just a bit off the trail.

That’s pretty much true.

Cellar Dweller’s beers are good! I was impressed at the Beerfest and I was again at the brewery. The experience at Cellar Dweller was a bit of a departure from the norm. See, Cellar Dweller is a fairly young baby of the larger and far more prominent business, Valley Vineyards. Cellar Dweller’s beers, as their slogan suggests, come from the cellars of Valley Vineyards. The place is basically a big restaurant with a big patio. Now, I say restaurant, but I don’t think they really serve food. They have some sort of thing going where they sometimes offer cheese plates, and they have big grills on the front patio where guests can bring their own meat and cook it. I guess they offer salads, desserts, etc. to go along with it as well.

It was interesting for this guy who is simply out for local craft beer. I found myself in a restaurant-like atmosphere. As the hour progressed, I saw more and more people, mostly elderly and not appearing to be hurting for money, filter in and take their reserved seats. Well, it is a winery I guess, and not exactly Napa.

See my fellow patrons. I feel young and rowdy.

See my fellow patrons. I feel young and rowdy.

By the way, I love wine and wineries. My wife and I used to make the 5 hour trek from Seattle to Walla Walla for spring wine release. We had a handful of neat wineries on Bainbridge Island as well.

I rolled in after some confusion as to where exit the trail. I was drenched in sweat on this 90 degree humid day, having pedaled some 35 miles. My bike locked up to the bike rack out front (that’s right, a bike rack!), my soaked shirt draped over the rack and my backup shirt donned, I entered the air-conditioned building after observing the expansive front patio and the guy lighting up the big barbecue grills.

As mentioned, I kind of blew it on my directions. I had investigated the route a couple days prior, consulting Google Street View to get an idea what it looks like where I was supposed to leave the trail and ride on-street the fairly short distance to the brewery. I should have boned up the day of my trip. When I neared Morrow, I saw a cross street that I suspected was where I needed to exit the trail and turn. I doubted myself and proceeded just beyond the street. Stopping to see if my phone could help me, I encountered a nice guy who slowed to ask if everything was okay. I took the opportunity to ask if he knew where Valley Vineyards was and if the street just behind us was the one that led there. Well, I thank the guy who was very nice, but between him and my phone, I was encouraged to proceed on the trail which turned out to take me some three miles too far. Then, I got off the trail and onto a busy road that began to go steeply uphill. My legs and body were not excited. I pulled over, checked my phone and decided I needed to go the other way. After trekking that way for a while on the busy road, I again pulled over, deciding to place a call to Valley Vineyards. Talking to the woman and thinking things through, I got an idea where I had gone wrong.

Yes, I had gone too far on the trail then pedaled around Morrow in vain. This as I was about drained of sweat.

Cellar Dweller is located a bit before you get into Morrow on the trail (coming from Cincinnati). The road at which you exit the trail is named Stubbs Mill Road, people. Remember it. One of the women at the brewery told me they had a sign up on the trail for a while, but it kept getting removed. There is actually a small wooden sign across the road as you approach on the trail that bears the road’s name.

THIS is the road.

THIS is the road. Get off the trail here and turn right! Then turn left at the light.

As you approach your road.

As you approach your road.

It looks like this once you're on the road. Barely visible in this pic is the big gravel pit on the left – a major landmark.

It looks like this once you’re on the road. Barely visible in this pic is the big gravel pit on the left – a major landmark.

 

Looking the other direction you would see the giant wine barrel Valley Vineyards sign. I didn't photograph it but I'm pretty sure you can find a pic of it.

Looking the other direction you would see the giant wine barrel Valley Vineyards sign. I didn’t photograph it but I’m pretty sure you can find a pic of it. Notice the little market where the proprietors of this place sell their own fruit and vegetables. Neat!

Right away I saw the red tap handles behind the counter and on the right, though visually they play as significant a role as does Cellar Dweller to Valley Vineyards. I knew what I was there for and, for me, there was no missing those tap handles. Oh yes, I was getting my Cellar Dweller beer.

That's Cellar Dweller over there on the wall.

That’s Cellar Dweller over there on the wall.

I was greeted by a nice young woman in what appeared to be almost a uniform. Tasters were my poison of choice here. They offer a set of seven tasters for $8. The woman readily offered, though, that they offer individual tasters for $1. This suited me better, though I ordered tasters of six of their currently available seven beers. It was a good deal, Pedalpinters. The tasters were unusually large (though they appeared to intentionally fill them less than full). As you see in the menu, Cellar Dweller’s beers are essentially $5/pint save a couple which are of the feebler variety. Yes, this seems to be the law of the land at breweries and beer establishments: only the beers much lighter in gravity come at a more affordable price. Maybe this is a foregone conclusion to most, but I don’t remember it always being that way. Is it an Ohio thing? Is it a Midwest thing? I’d have to go back and visit the Pacific Northwest to find out. Sadly, I am actually glad to see they only charge $5 at a maximum. The price of beer just keeps going up my friends. $5 is the new $4.

CellarDwellerTasters

CellarDwellerTasters2

I took my paddle of tasters and – no, actually the woman offered to carry them for me – I found a table in the cool somewhat dim dining room. All the tables had cards displayed on them with names and the time of the reservations. I was prepared for this, as I had called a total of three times leading up to my adventure to get a feel for the atmosphere there. More importantly, I needed to confirm that they would be open before I blew a day of travel in vain. The deal is, comrades who are just out for a bit of beer and a bike ride, the place takes reservations and fills up with diners and winers at 4 o’clock. Prior to that, though, you are welcome to visit and enjoy the beer (and wine). Just make sure you are ready to vacate your table before the reservation time unless you want an uncomfortable moment.

Makes you want to settle in and have a nice dinner with friends or family eh? Nah. I think I'll ride 30 miles home now.

Makes you want to settle in and have a nice dinner with friends or family eh? Nah. I think I’ll ride 30 miles home now.

Of the six Cellar Dweller beers I had, I enjoyed Dead Dweller the least. Dead Dweller is good. This tells you how I feel about these beers. Standouts for me are the Ryno amber which tasted a lot more like an IPA or hoppy pale than an amber. It is listed at 27 IBU but has to be hopper than that. The Lookout Stout and the Hoppy Poppy IPA are very good as well. Shawsome black IPA is good but not, to me, quite as good as the aforementioned. Just a matter of taste, but all quality beers! I’d like to try their wines sometime.

CellarDwellerBeerMenu

At first I sat at a table for two not far from the gift shop/counter. Later, I moved to a big table diagonally across the room that was next to a front window, as I craved more light and a view outside. This table had a reservation time of 6:00 compared to the 5:00 at my first table. It was getting close to this hour because I had left home later than I wished, having had to deal with a flat tire before departing and of course getting a bit lost on the way.

When I saw a significant amount of people saunter in and fill the area around the counter I figured I’d better get up there and pay lest I be caught waiting behind a crowd of distinguished guests, my time ticking away. I joined the crowd and settled up with the responsive friendly staff. To my surprise, there was a lull in the action a bit later for which I should have waited. 

From my window I was able to see my bike and the two other bikes locked to the rack that were there when I arrived. Yes, there were a couple other cyclists there, though I couldn’t tell who they were. I have the strong suspicion that most people that bike to Valley Vineyards do so from somewhere around Loveland (home of Cappy’s a place detailed in another of my posts), or maybe from some point to the North of the winery. I don’t know that the place sees many visitors from Cincinnati, a 65-70 mile round trip away.

After thoroughly enjoying my tasting experience, I finally used the restroom. Yes, I had downed about 1.75 liters of water since leaving home in addition to my beer and just now had to pee a little. That’s how much I sweat. It was time to take off and start the ride back home.

I exited on the gravel drive that runs parallel to the road, then joined the road. It’s not far until you reach the road where you turn right to reach the trail which is probably 1/3 mile away.

The ride on the trail this day was peaceful and pleasant but tiring and, frankly, boring. Two hours each way does get old. Of course there is also the ride to and from the trail from my neighborhood which you will see on the map.

I’m glad to have had this adventure and thus made it to the final Cincinnati brewery I had not visited. I’ll do it again, though maybe in the winter!

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Coming Soon: A Year in Cincinnati: Observations

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Ah, Cincinnati. I’ve spent almost a year of my life here now, and I’ve been paying attention.

MetalSidewalkHoleWGrassSprout

Coming soon.

Updated July 14: An Adventure To Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits

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Join me as I play recreational Cincinnati cyclist and finally try out the Loveland Bike Trail. There’s one major difference however: I didn’t drive a car, park it, then start my ride. I rode from my house. Yes, take that. I believe most of the time a bike ride should not involve gasoline and an internal combustion engine.

Cappy’s Craft Wine And Spirits is a place I’ve heard of a few times and finally had brought into the forefront of my consciousness by the web presence known as Hoperatives here in the Cincinnati area. It clicked that this was a place not far at all off the Loveland Trail that fills growlers and carried a lot of craft beer. Sounds like an adventure to me.

Allow me to take a moment to address something: One day as I was at Rivertown Brewing recently, there was a guy I’d just met talking about cycling with me and the Loveland Bike Trail came up. Suddenly from my other side came a loud, adamant, somewhat obnoxious voice proclaiming that it’s not the Loveland Bike Trail. It’s the Loveland Multi-Use Trail! The man, a cyclist, insisted that walkers did not want him blazing along the trail at 30 miles per hour or something like that. You know what? He has a point, albeit a point I already understood. It is indeed a multi-use trail and cyclists should yield and give as wide a berth as possible to those on foot. His point I do think bears repeating here, as I believe most folks call it the Loveland Bike Trail. Many cyclists – almost exclusively those clad in bright Lycra and atop expensive road bikes – ride fast, disrespectfully and unsafely to others on trails such as this.

I feel bad leveling a dig at serious and somewhat serious roadies, or even wannabe lookalikes. I love and promote all forms of cycling. The more people in bikes the better! People, though, need to be respectful and considerate of others. I love to ride fast, and would like to think I’m pretty good at it. I, however, almost always slow down, and put as much space as is reasonable between me and slower riders, and those on foot.

Something else very much needs addressing here: Pedestrians have their own serious burden of responsibility in sharing paths and other ways of travel. So many people traveling on foot (cyclists too) are oblivious to the world around them, but particularly anything and anyone behind them. Walkers, please, if you’re going to spread out and take up most or all of the way of passage (as is apparently human nature) please put in some effort toward periodically checking behind you or at least listening!! Almost every time I come up behind people walking, whether I am running or whether I am cycling, my attempts to get their attention with anything less than a loud, rude holler, fail. Pay attention, or don’t spread out and block the way, people! This should be basic.

Now, back to beer adventuring.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Pretty nice selection for what feels and looks like a traditional small town.

Cappy’s is located in Loveland, in case I haven’t mentioned it. The ride from my house, I think, was about 25 miles one way. This place is part of the trend – one that amazes me – of offering beer on tap at stores. There is a grocery store in Cincinnati that fills growlers, and this is one of two convenience stores that I know of in the area that also do. Cappy’s has a very nice selection of bottled beers as well of course. It’s a place to find nice wine too, though I didn’t take the time to check that out on this maiden voyage. I refer you to my post on Chuck’s on 85th, known now as Chuck’s Hop Shop for a writeup of a place that is doing the same thing in Seattle. The main difference, aside from the fact that Chuck’s has a lot more on tap, and more in bottles, is that Chuck’s is allowed to serve glasses of beer to be consumed onsite. Cappy’s currently is limited to offering four tiny samples for $1. The guy who helped me this day at Cappy’s, though, told me that this coming fall they would become allowed to pour beer for consumption on premise. Two pints he thought would be the limit. Neat! Guess it must be up to Loveland lawmakers, as the Whole Foods in Cincinnati makes no mention of a pint limit.

Nice stuff.

Nice stuff.

Getting to Cappy’s from my location in Hyde Park was not bad. Basically you ride the same route you use to get to Fifty West Brewing, but you proceed a fairly short distance past it, crossing the intersection at Newtown Rd. and then find the beginning of the trail on your right.

I will provide a map next, and further describe the ride and the growler filling experience at Cappy’s.

July 12 update follows:

Here’s the map:

http://goo.gl/maps/IkeRN

The ride from Hyde Park to Cappy’s brought back memories of Seattle. How? Think Burke Gilman Trail. From my home on Bainbridge Island, WA I’d ride to the ferry, take the boat, then sometimes ride a handful of miles to where I could pick up the Burke Gilman then head off to my destination. Here, I rode a handful of miles where I could pick up the Loveland Trail and head to my destination. Of course a major difference is that there are far fewer useful places the Loveland Trail can take you compared to its Seattle counterpart.

I took Erie to the east, followed it and enjoyed the bike lanes that are present on parts of it, and at Murray Rd., turned right. See, there is another short separated multi-use path to enjoy here that takes you into Mariemont. On this trip I had a nice experience talking to a fellow cyclist on the Murray Trail. An older gentleman in riding gear pulled up alongside me and asked where I was headed. Informed that we had moved here last fall from Seattle, he shared some information about the Loveland Trail with me that I already knew. A nice experience that you just cannot get driving a car. Human connection.

The Murray Trail ends and leaves you to ride on a residential street with, oddly, another residential street running parallel to it. Take this to the intersection with Plainville Rd., a stop sign intersection where you cut diagonally across and proceed on Madisonville Rd. which curves right and takes you down to the heart of Mariemont’s business/entertainment district. Cross the stop light intersection, turning left onto Wooster Pike/50.

From there you ride on the roadway with no bike lane or appreciable shoulder through the eastern part of Mariemont. There is a great downhill stretch before you pass the big grocery store. Not too long after that you pass Fifty West Brewing which is on the left. Proceed past the intersection with Newtown Rd. and shortly after that find the entrance to the Loveland Trail on your right.

Before long you pass a park. This is always great, as you can possibly fill a water bottle and use the restroom unless these facilities are closed for the winter (hate that!).

The rest of the ride is pretty self-explanatory. There are some places where you deal with intersections with roads. At least a couple of them are pretty treacherous.

When you get into Loveland, get off the trail and go left on Loveland Ave. (I recommend staying on the near side of the road, dismounting and walking/running on the sidewalk) It’s not far to where you cross an intersection then see Cappy’s on the left.

Cappy’s, frankly, doesn’t look very nice on the outside. Well, neither does it on the inside. This is pretty much on par with Seattle’s Super Deli Mart and Chuck’s Hop Shop however. It’s a quickie mart that has beer on tap.

Notice I didn’t say it pours beer. Not until this fall according to the guy who helped me.

On this visit to Cappy’s I filled two growlers – one with the local Mt. Carmel Snapshot Series Imperial IPA (very good) and the other with Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. I’ll quickly mention Mt. Carmel Brewing since I probably won’t document an adventure to that brewery. See, it’s not possible as far as I can tell to ride a bike there. One day I had to drive to Eastgate Mall and I made the trip more worthwhile by finally visiting Mt. Carmel. I was quite impressed. The tasting room space is very nice, the service is friendly and the beer is good. You’re inside an old house and can proceed back into other areas of the house that are very tastefully appointed. Outside there is a sitting area and a pond complete with two fake ducks and sometimes two real ones. Any time I have to drive out that way I’ll be stopping in (if they’re open).

Back to Cappy’s. Well, more on Cappy’s next!

July 14 update follows:

Pull your bike up to Cappy’s and, of course, find no bike parking. I locked up to something out front and hoped no locals would complain. Yes I was struck by how, oh how to I phrase it, towny this place appears. I had heard good things about it online and was impressed that Cappy’s is smart enough to maintain an active web presence, providing Twitter updates showing their current tap lineup. What do I expect, I guess. It’s a convenience store in a relatively small town in the Midwest. Even the two quickie marts in Seattle that pour beer are frankly pretty crummy in appearance, and only one of them has a bike rack out front. The standard macro beers occupy a surprising share of Cappy’s coolers and floor space.

On to the good: Cappy’s does have a nice selection of both bottles and draft beer. If I recall, they have as a standard offering Bell’s Two Hearted Ale for a decent price per growler fill. The prices on the rest of their fills are typical – mostly somewhat overpriced for this bargain hunter.

On this visit there was a mixup. The cordial, genuine young man helping me filled one of my growlers with the wrong beer. This wound up being a slightly bigger issue than I would expect. He couldn’t see his way to pouring the beer into another vessel where it could serve another purpose. Instead he offered, to my dismay, to swap out my growler for a new one. I got the feeling he didn’t fully understand the basic tenet of growlership that states that the growler is the property of the customer. This was my growler from Seattle’s Peddler Brewing Company – a bicycle-themed brewery that I’ve written about. There was no way I was letting him keep it, and I was offended that he seemed to think he had the right to take it. I don’t want to be hard on the guy. He was nice and in the end came up with a solution that was agreeable.

An interesting thing about Cappy’s: They offer 1/2 size growlers pre-filled with beer that comes out of their lines just prior to their cleaning the lines. I really appreciate their finding a use for this beer that otherwise would go wasted. It’s sold at a decent discount, however, this discount is wiped out by the fact that you must purchase the new 1/2 size growler glassware at the same time. I wish they would provide this offer while allowing you to exchange a 1/2 size growler of your own, thus relieving you of purchasing the new glassware each time.

The selection of bottled beer at Cappy’s is fairly impressive. I have some pics of the bottled beers that I may share at a future date, but my wife and I have switched phones temporarily. You get the idea regarding Cappys though. It’s a solid place that I’m glad to have available. I look forward to their beginning to offer beer for consumption on premise. I wonder if they will install a seating area, and how far this will be taken. I don’t personally need seating, as wandering around a bottle shop while sipping a beer is a favorite activity.

Well that’s Cappy’s, folks – at least from my unique perspective. The ride home is just a reversal of the outgoing trip and of course can feel sort of long. I stopped in Fifty West on the way back and found it overrun with what I found out to be a load of tour bus revelers. Don’t get me started on the whole craft beer tour van/bus thing taking root in Cincinnati.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure. Look for an adventure that may take place in the immediate future that will see me on the Loveland Trail again and blazing all the way to Morrow, OH for a visit to Cellar Dweller Brewing!

Cheers, and keep spinning those spokes!

Updated Aug 16 With Shortcut: A Jaunty Jaunt to the Whole Foods Beer Station

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Pedalpinters, please note the bold heading near the end of this post that reads: August 14 update: And please take a look at the updated map, as I have discovered a better way that takes you right to Whole Foods from Hyde Park.

Have I lost it?

Meaning 1: Am I crazy for seeking out a beer drinking experience at Whole Foods? Meaning 2: Have I lost my drive for adventure?

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries.

I appreciate the concise information provided here. The only things missing are the ABVs and the location of the breweries. Oh, and the type of beer.

I’ll let you decide.

Sure, I was the only one sitting there in Whole Foods drinking a beer. Sure, the trip to Whole Foods was a mile long.

The essential elements.

The essential elements.

This experience has something in common with my experiences at Chuck’s on 85th in that I’m in the middle of a store enjoying a beer. Its weirdness adds to the enjoyability.

No doubt my blissful little roll on over to Whole Foods bears almost no similarity to many of the epic adventures I’ve had such as those to Trade Route Brewing, or Snoqualmie Falls Brewing (both chronicled here at twopedalsacouplepints).

It was, however, a highly enjoyable craft beer by bike experience, and one I plan to repeat. Lest you doubt me, I proceeded from Whole Foods on to Bad Tom Brewing (formerly Double Barrel Brewing), then into the OTR neighborhood for Moerlein Brewing Taproom, then to the brand new HalfCut beer place, also in OTR.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries. Love it.

Yes, you sit there drinking a beer and can watch everyone checking out with their groceries.

Let me provide you with my route to Whole Foods for what it’s worth. I’m sitting pretty in my location in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Cincinnati. I cut through the back of the Rookwood Commons shopping center to where Whole Foods is found. This lets me avoid a bunch of busy parking lot navigation and delay. It is also pretty awesome that the beer station (nestled into the coffee bar) is located at that end of the building at which I arrive first, coming this way.

http://goo.gl/maps/JPTcL

They had some very good beers on that day, making this an even more essential experience.

May 20 Update follows:

You can see by looking at the chalkboard that Whole Foods’ prices on draft beer vary pretty widely. They want $4/pint and $3/pint for some, which is almost unheard of these days. Some others are $7 and up. Consider also their growler pricing which is wonky. For instance the Battle Axe is the same price per ounce in a pint as it is in half gallon growler. Finally, it’s important to know what I was told by the “beerista” (my term, what with this being a tiny beer bar inside a coffee bar): They plan to soon start serving beers in their “proper glassware.” What this means mostly is that a lot of their offerings are going to served in smaller sizes for the same price they currently charge. Yes, I understand proper glassware and serving higher alcohol beers in smaller pours. The point is that Whole Foods is currently offering beers in a full pint (and not a false pint glass – those thick-bottomed glasses which look just like a pint glass but only hold about 13 oz. – watch for them!) that are not available in that size just about anywhere else. Forgive me, the value hound in me takes note of this.

For me, the standout beers on the chalkboard were Fat Heads Battle Axe, a baltic porter, and Jackie O’s Matriarch, a big IPA. The beer list was almost unchanged on my subsequent visit which took place last Friday. This makes me wonder about how long it takes Whole Foods to go through a keg of beer.

I first got a pint of MadTree Brewing’s Galaxy High, an imperial IPA which weighs in at about 11.2%, and is delicious. I’ve enjoyed Galaxy High at the brewery taproom here in Cincinnati, but it’s $7/10 oz. pour. This is not the first time I’ve gotten a brewery’s beer offsite cheaper than at the brewery, which defies what at least used to be the logic that states that beer obtained directly from the source is cheaper. I consider it sweet revenge to avoid the overcharging that some brewery taprooms do these days. I love MadTree. It was my sort of home-base brewery when I lived in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Their pricing is a beef I have with them, and they’re certainly not the only brewery doing it these days – I presume taking advantage of the growing popularity of consuming beer at a brewery taproom.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch.

A bright beautiful day and bright, clean (expensive) scenery. A great spot to people watch. You see my bike parking spot on the right.

Next, having asked the very helpful and courteous beerista what type of beers were the Matriarch and the Battle Axe, (and having gotten tastes) I decided I would like to have both. Not wishing to consume too much alcohol, and not having that much more time, I asked if they had a smaller pour size. The answer was no. This woman, however, was so willing to help and make things nice for the customer that she offered to go ask the manager what they could do. Upon returning, she offered to pour about 1/2 pint of each into smaller glasses and charge the price between the two beers. One beer was $7 and one was $5 so I was charged $6.

A lot of talk of price here, I know. What I wish to convey is that I have been quite pleasantly surprised by the good customer service I have been having at this Cincinnati Whole Foods location. I hadn’t paid Whole Foods much attention in the past, believing them to be overpriced and probably pretentious. They are in fact overpriced on some items, but reasonably priced on a lot of others. More importantly, it seems that Whole Foods management dictates that their employees measure up to a certain standard of customer care. I have seen it at the checkout counter, and when I ask questions. I also see it written on the wall as part of a huge display detailing their company mission. It says something like delight every customer. A pleasant surprise, and something that will keep me coming back with my dollars.

Back to beer: The Fat Head’s Battle Axe was a nice example of the baltic porter style – deep, rich and having a particular flavor I find hard to describe but yummy. Its ABV is up there around 10%. The Jackie O’s Matriarch is amazing. Rarely have I been wowed by a beer. This one is powerful good. Strong fruity-hoppiness and a backbone to support it. It, too, is quite strong – above 10%, I believe.

A couple notes on the experience of getting to Whole Foods via my route: If you choose to walk instead of ride a bike, know that there are not sidewalks taking you through the parking lot. Once you enter the shopping center from Madison, you are on a sidewalk that seems to belong to the Valvoline oil change center. After you leave that, you are on the ground sharing a fairly narrow area with parking lot drivers making time cutting through the back of a very busy lot. If you arrive by bicycle, a bike rack awaits you on the side of the building. It’s a shame they relegated bike parking to this obscure, out-of-sight location. I have always locked up to a light post right in front of the coffee bar. Another practical note: On my most recent visit, I found the convenient entrance I mentioned earlier to be closed, and a sign telling you to use the main entrance. Much less convenient. By the time I left, however, the sign was gone and the door usable. Not sure why.

Whole Foods offers self-serve water, which is always a big plus!

Nice going!

Self-serve water. Nice going!

Last time I was there, I noticed, on the other end of the counter, to my left, someone getting water from a bottled water cooler. It appeared to be self-serve for the customer as well. Weird. I’ll have to check out that option.

I will note it’s surprising that the counter here is kind of less than clean looking. I see newspapers have left remnants, and I’m not sure what else is going on. Plenty of plug-ins for your electronics though (haven’t confirmed that they are live).

III

IIIXXX

A couple of interesting things were observed as I Wholly enjoyed my beer. The first was perplexing, the second pretty cool. 1.) I observed three middle-aged/old men gather at the front of the parking lot and light up various smoking articles. Right there they stood, smoked and seemed to have planned to meet for an organized old-guy parking lot smoke. A Meetup Group?

Perhaps: "

2.) I saw a couple of guys in the store sporting UFC shirts and clothing. They were obviously into MMA fighting, but I assumed they were just fans that worked out and possibly trained. A bit later I saw a white Ford van in the parking lot. My first thought was this looks like the sort of van you see on TV that transports UFC fighters on the show “The Ultimate Fighter.” I then saw a few of these UFC decked-out guys go out and get into the van. Turns out, later that week I just happened to find a UFC event on TV – on the lowly cable package we have. Watching it, I saw them show a Cincinnati Bengals player in the audience. It clicked. The guys and the van I saw at Whole Foods were with the UFC and some of them were probably fighters participating in the event that I found out was taking place at US Bank Arena. As a fan of, and student of MMA, I find this pretty neat!

xxxxxx

Don’t confront.

Ending on a couple of random notes, I’ll sign off this account of an odd, awesome beer enjoying opportunity. I hope you experience it sometime.

August 16 update follows:

Neat! I’ve discovered a better route from Hyde Park to Whole Foods. Even if you’re not coming from Hyde Park – for instance If you’re coming in on Madison from either direction – it’s your ticket to avoiding the parking lot blues. Yes, this route features one of my very favorite things: A pedestrian/non-motorized cut-through!

Right this way.

Right this way.

Now, this route is useful whether on foot or on bike. If on foot, follow the route on the (updated!) map and you’ll have stop light intersections to get you across roads. The new route avoids that major flaw in the original route if you’re on foot: your having to navigate the parking lot without the benefit of sidewalks (seems the Rookwood Commons shopping center was not designed with pedestrians in mind – at least not those who would be stupid enough to try to arrive in a manner other than by motor vehicle).

This new route puts you right at the back of Whole Foods! See, at the end of Burch Ave (a dead-end street) there is a chain link fence with a gate that is open. You can see that people use this route, as there are crude stepping stones in place and steps dug into the hill to help you down and up the dirt/grass hill! Neat!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

See the railroad tracks that you cross. Hopefully one day soon there will be the Wasson Way trail in place of these tracks!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the other direction (leaving Rookwood) you see that folks have put down stepping stones of various types. Power to the people!

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear "earthy" they should advertise this path.

Looking from the parking lot. The hill is steeper than it looks here. If Whole Foods wants to appear “earthy” they should advertise this path.

An update on the Whole Foods beer station: They have started pouring some beers in smaller glasses for the same price – as I said they would.
Another discovery: I’d reported that there was a water cooler, that appears to have nice purified water, on one end of the long counter, and a different kind of cooler on the beer station side that I assumed contained tap water. I was told recently that both contain the same water: reverse osmosis good stuff from the filling station they have where it’s available for purchase. In fact, since both coolers were empty on a recent visit, an employee told me I could just take my bike bottle back and fill it at the station – like it was no big deal. That’s cool, and something I would have considered shoplifting before being given permission.

Enjoy the new route, my friends! It’s a sweet thing.

Join me on my next adventure. Cheers and keep spinning those spokes!

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